Give Mothers Their Druthers (and Their Money)

March 6, 2013

In their book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know—And Men Can’t Say, Phyllis Schlafly and Suzanne Venker point out that “the left wants to diminish the role and authority parents have over their preschool children.”

The lingo used for this goal varies. Sometimes it’s called “pre-kindergarten (pre-K),” sometimes “early childhood education,” sometimes “full-day kindergarten,” and sometimes just “day care.” Except for old-fashioned nursery schools, which children attend for a few hours a day, two or three days a week, these programs are really euphemisms for babysitting.

Indeed, liberals matter-of-factly acknowledge that public schools “provide not just education, but basic child care” and are “a reliable source of child care.” The Oklahoman, in an “Education & careers” supplement last year, averred that Oklahoma is “the leader in early childcare education.” It’s small wonder the career-advice counselor author Penelope Trunk says “the U.S. school system is really just the biggest babysitting institution in the world.”

This tax-funded-babysitting lobby was out in full force in 2011 as several Oklahomans—professional “child advocates,” representatives of the daycare lobby, educators and bureaucrats, and so on—gathered one day in Oklahoma City to consider policy recommendations of the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness (OPSR).

When considering this push for an ever-expanding nanny state, “it is hard not to suspect the distorting influence of self-interest,” as Bryce Christensen once observed. After all, said Dr. Christensen, author of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America, “mothers who stay at home with their children do not create new opportunities for educators or bureaucrats or lobbyists. Those opportunities open up only by persuading parents to turn their children over to surrogates while opening up their tax checkbooks to pay other people’s salaries.”

Now what’s interesting—bizarre, actually—about the OPSR meeting is that of the 55 people there to discuss policy recommendations, 53 of them were women. (Where are the “gender equity” advocates when you need them?) But make no mistake, these 53 women hold views which are not consistent with the views of most Oklahoma women.

Indeed, the very afternoon of the OPSR meeting, the respected firm SoonerPoll released the results of a new survey. “In two important ways,” the surveyor said, “Oklahoma is a national leader in early childhood education. First, among all the states Oklahoma has the highest percentage of four-year-olds in state-funded preschool programs. Secondly, Oklahoma is one of the few states that offer a tax break for stay-at-home parents. Assuming there is a limited amount of money, which of the following do you think should take precedence: Increasing the amount of money spent on preschool programs for four-year-olds, or expanding the tax break for parents who stay at home with their four-year-olds?”

Now one would think preschool would prevail here. After all, Oklahoma parents signing little Johnny up for preschool or kindergarten routinely blurt out to reporters how much money they’ll be saving in daycare costs. And as George Bernard Shaw taught us, “a government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”

But it turns out Oklahoma parents would prefer the tax break, and by a margin of 55 percent to 31 percent.

Among women, the margin is 51 percent to 35 percent.

Among women with household income under $35,000, the margin is 55 percent to 29 percent.

Oklahoma’s political leaders should make it more affordable for Oklahoma women to stay home if they choose.